Question: On two occasions I’ve been caught in closures on Snoqualmie Pass when the roads were bare and wet.
If the temperature is above freezing, the snow is coming down part rain, and traffic is turning what sticks to the road to water or slush, what is the big deal?
I have four-wheel drive and other appropriate winter equipment, properly observe the conditions and gauge my driving accordingly. I am incensed to have to be held up while the Washington State Patrol “protects” me.
Why are officials so cavalier about closing mountain passes when there is no blasting, no avalanches and, really, no snow? — Sandy Paul, Tacoma
Answer: Okay, a couple of things: First, it’s usually not the Washington State Patrol that makes the decision to close passes; it’s the Washington state Department of Transportation.
They use a combination of criteria recommended by the Federal Highway Administration and which include not only snow depth, but wind speed, air temperature, humidity, visibility distance and pavement temperature.
Most of the time, according to WSDOT, the pass is closed to remove blocking vehicles driven by people — unlike you — who were unprepared and going too fast.
If someone else spins out next to you, you’re still at risk, even in your four-wheel drive vehicle.
Here’s another reason the state may be inclined to be cautious: In September, it paid $10 million to settle a lawsuit by a family whose SUV was crushed by a tree after a 2012 snow and ice storm at Stevens Pass.
The family argued that WSDOT should have closed U.S. Highway 2, but didn’t.